Zachary Mason’s new novel Metamorphica reimagines Ovid’s Metamorphoses, in the tradition of Mason’s bestselling debut novel The Lost Books of the Odyssey. His new novel transforms Ovid’s epic poem that is itself about endless transformation, reimagining the stories and stringing them together like the stars in constellations. Here, he explains how he approached this task and came to use a star map as a guide to his project.
My first book, The Lost Books of the Odyssey, is about The Odyssey, while my new book, Metamorphica, is about everything else in Greek mythology. The Lost Books is vortex and fugue, with Odysseus at its center and no particular narrative continuity; Metamorphica is The Lost Books’ inverse and mirror, centerless and permeated with narrative threads, the consequences of each story radiating out in all directions. It’s hard to capture this centerlessness and interweaving with a table of contents, which led to the star map.
In the star map, the brightest stars are stories.
The night sky is divided between Aphrodite, Athena, Zeus, Nemesis, Dionysos, Apollo and Death.
Stories appear in the septant of the most salient god, or on the boundary of the two most salient.
Lines are narrative connections which form constellations.
A story’s distance from the center increases with its distance from primordial time. The outermost ring is the end of the age of myth, which is the aftermath of the Trojan War or shortly thereafter.
In Ovid, those whom the gods would memorialize or save from an intolerable situation often wound up as constellations. Moreover, myth, especially the Greek matter, feels like it takes place in or is the substance of a kind of over-arching dream-time, ideas which combined to make me want to make the stories in Metamorphica into linked bodies of stars.
The feeling of the star map is meant to be similar to Joseph Cornell’s “Celestial Navigation.”
Zachary Mason is a computer scientist and the author of The Lost Books of the Odyssey and Void Star. He lives in California.